The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of a philosophical shift in their offensive approach. With the intention to let the offense flow through quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Browns retooled their wide receiver room as well as their playbook. But even with the shift to become a pass-heavier offense, Nick Chubb will still see a similar volume as he has in years past. And here’s why.
Up until this season, Chubb’s usage has been in line with how a traditional running game is employed. As a result, Chubb’s carries were determined by whether or not the Browns were in the flow of a game. If the game was within seven points, in either direction, then Chubb remained the focal point of the offense.
However, now the Browns are in a space where they want to throw the ball early on in games and allow Watson to be the engine that drives the offense. With the pass heavier approach comes more plays out of the shotgun and pistol, as well as four receiver sets, and even empty sets at times. Those are all things that point to Chubb being on the field less, and at minimum should lessen the impact he will have in this offense.
So where will Chubb’s carries come from? Well, if things go according to plan for the Browns this season, they should find themselves with a lead entering the fourth quarter more often than not. And if the Browns are up by seven or more in the fourth quarter, what do you think is more likely; Kevin Stefanski stays pass happy or will he look to take the air out of the ball and grind out the clock to seal the win?
Of course, that question is rhetorical, it will be Nick Chubb time. If the game script follows that formula, it would be easy to see Chubb get 10-12 carries over the final 20 minutes of games. Then if you add the five to six carries he will get during the first half of games, it will leave him with his normal volume: 280-300 carries.
There's even a path where Chubb gets his normal touches without a ton of finishing work. In 2022, Nick Chubb played 660 offensive snaps (56%) and carried the ball 302 times, while his backup, Kareem Hunt played 492 snaps (42%) and carried the ball 123 times. Now second-year running back Jerome Ford is the primary backup, and while he should see significant touches it is highly unlikely that he plays north of 400 snaps or carries the ball more than 100 times.
When you factor in a slight uptick in snap percentage, his added usage in the passing game, and the possibility of playing the role of a hammer in the fourth quarter, Nick Chubb is still going to get his touches. It will just be structured differently than it has been in seasons past, and because of that it will feel different watching it unfold.
Chubb will no longer be the engine that drives the offense throughout all four quarters as he has been since he took over as the starting running back in 2018. But do not get it twisted, Chubb is still going to be a vital part of the offense and who the team turns to when it is time to put a team away.
Final Nick Chubb 2023 prediction: 294 carries, 1,588 yards, and 13 touchdowns/ 34 receptions, 306 yards, and two touchdowns. Elite.